Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back November 3 with all new recipes...

Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cakes

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie but it’s kind of boring. This is a great take on this traditional dessert. Totally decadent, simply sweet and utterly delicious, you’ll probably only make this once a year. But trust me; they’ll want you to make it an annual thing.

Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cakes
Serves 8

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Fresh whipped cream, for topping
Candy for toppings (recommended: M and M's, Reese's pieces, crushed Snickers, mini chocolates, peanuts)
Special Equipment: 10 (5-inch) removable bottom tart pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cake mix, egg and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Divide the mixture into 10-equally sized balls. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and gently press into the bottom of each tart pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs, vanilla and butter. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spoon a scant ½ -cup of the pumpkin mixture over cake batter in the tart pans and bake for about 40 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and candy topping.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apple Crisp

Apples are in season now and what better way to celebrate this fruit than with a simple dessert. Take sweet-tart apple filling and give it an irresistible topping and voila! Dessert is done.

Apple Crisp
Serves 6-8

5 Granny Smith apples
1 package (9 ounces) yellow cake mix
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ butter or margarine, melted
½ cup chopped nuts
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Thawed, frozen whipped topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core and slice apples. Place apples in a baking dish.

Combine cake mix, sugar, cinnamon, butter and nuts in a bowl. Mix until crumbly. Spread mixture evenly over apples.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snake Bites

This is such an easy and fun recipe. Perfect for a kids party or the Halloween office potluck. People will think you are amazingly creative with this one.

Snake Bites
Serves 10

1 can crescent rolls
Flour, for dusting
4 tablespoons spicy mustard
10 ounces thinly sliced ham
10 ounces thinly sliced salami
12 ounces Monterey Jack, grated
Liquid food coloring
3 egg yolks
2 whole cloves
2 small pimiento-stuffed olives
1 (1-inch) strips jarred roasted red peppers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Grease the foil and set aside.

Dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Spread out the crescent dough — do not separate. Pinch together the seams so that you have 1 piece of dough. Roll out to make a large rectangle. Make sure the dough is not stuck to the surface at all.

Brush the dough with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Layer the meats down the center of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border on either end. You can feel free to use your favorite cold cuts.

Top the meats with the cheese. Fold 1 side of the dough over the filling, lengthwise. Then, fold the other ½ over and press the seal the filling inside. Take 1 egg yolk, and beat lightly with a fork. Brush the egg yolk over the top of the dough. The yolk will act as the glue to hold. Fold the dough in ½ again lengthwise. Pinch the seam with your fingers to seal. Press the outside of the dough to make sure everything is sealed tight and to make an even thickness for the body of your snake. Taper 1 end of the dough to form a tail shape. Form the other end into a head shape.

Beat the 2 remaining egg yolks together. Transfer to 3 separate small bowls. Add some food coloring to each bowl — whatever colors you like! Using a clean paintbrush, "paint" the snake with the egg yolk/food coloring mixture.

Transfer the snake to the foil lined sheet tray. Form into an "s" shape so it looks like the snake is slithering. Insert 2 cloves into the head to look like nostrils and 2 stuffed olives for eyes. Create a mouth or tongue with the roasted red peppers. Bake the snake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles with Trail Mix Topping

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, so ease into the scariest day of the year with this simple fall brunch recipe. Simply divine, these waffles taste like fluffy pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Pumpkin Waffles with Trail Mix Topping
Serves 4

For the Waffles:
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (pumpkin pie filing)
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Topping:
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 ½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
Coarse salt
¼ cup dried cherries or cranberries
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Make the topping: Put the almonds, sunflower seeds and syrup in a bowl; mix thoroughly. Spread on 2 baking sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper and season with salt; bake until just golden, stirring several times, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on the pan, and then toss with the dried cherries.

Make the batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin-pie spice in a bowl. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks in a separate bowl, then whisk in 1 ½ cups strained pumpkin puree, the yogurt and milk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (it will be lumpy). Beat the egg whites with a mixer until stiff, and then gently fold into the batter.

Cook the waffles: Preheat a waffle iron and grease it if it's not nonstick. Spoon in the batter and cook until golden brown. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven (directly on the rack) until serving. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, and sprinkle with the topping.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken Zucchini Alfredo

This recipe is remarkably tasty. My family loves alfredo sauce, but I rarely make it because of the fat and calorie content. This is a superb alternative. This recipe has very little cheese and includes low fat milk, yet it still measures up to the creamy texture of the original sauce. Flavorful and delicious, you can indulge in this guilt-free pleasure.

Chicken Zucchini Alfredo
Serves 4

Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced into half-moons
4 4-ounce thin skinless, boneless chicken breasts Freshly ground pepper
12 ounces fettuccine (preferably whole wheat)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup cold low-fat milk (1%)
½ cup evaporated nonfat milk
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 clove garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, cover and cook until tender, stirring, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water as the label directs. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water; return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour and low-fat milk in a bowl. Place the remaining 1 clove garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, 30 seconds. Add the flour-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cheese; stir to melt, 1 minute.

Cut the chicken into strips. Toss with the pasta, sauce, zucchini and parsley, adding the reserved pasta water to loosen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Severed Fingers Halloween Cookies

This is a killer bite. Make this clever, creepy and downright gruesome recipe for your spooky soiree.

Severed Fingers Halloween Cookies
Makes 30 cookies

2 tablespoons red food coloring
30 blanched almonds
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper, and set aside.

Place food coloring in a shallow bowl. Crack each whole almond into halves and toss them into the bowl with the food coloring and stir them until the color is evenly distributed. Leave them in the bowl and stir them every so often until the color is as dark as you like.

Separate 1 egg. Set aside the white. In a small bowl, whisk together yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, confectioners' sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add egg mixture, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic, and chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Work with one piece at a time, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic wrap and chilled. Divide the first half into fifteen pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece back and forth with palms into finger shapes, 3 to 4 inches long. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Score each knuckle lightly with the back of a small knife. Transfer fingers to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

When all fingers are formed, brush lightly with egg white. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach.

Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bananas Foster French Toast

What’s better than dessert for breakfast, especially when it involves bananas foster? How about Bananas Foster French toast? You will never make French toast with regular bread again. The croissants make all the difference – they’re fluffy, light and incredibly tasty. Delicious, sweet and easy, this is one breakfast recipe you won’t want to pass up.

Bananas Foster French Toast
Serves 8

4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter, divided
8 large croissants, halved
½ cup dark corn syrup
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans
6 ripe bananas, halved crosswise and lengthwise
1 teaspoon rum extract (may substitute vanilla if you have kids)


In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, cream, and cinnamon. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Dip 4 croissant halves in egg mixture to coat both sides. Using a fork, remove croissants from egg mixture, letting excess mixture drip off. Place croissant halves in hot skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining butter and croissant halves. Set aside and keep warm.

In a large skillet, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup and pecans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add banana halves and rum extract. Coat with the syrup mixture, and simmer 1 minute. Spoon over French toast. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skillet Shepherd Pie

Looking for a delicious dinner that’s hearty and healthy? Try this easy-to-follow recipe for shepherd’s pie. Believe it or not, it’s only 330 calories per serving with 9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat… Okay, I won’t bore you with the nutritional information; however, trust me; this is a delicious meal especially on a cold, winter’s night.

Skillet Shepherd Pie
Serves 6

2 teaspoons canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 onion, minced
1 celery rib, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 pound 95 percent lean ground beef
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 cup frozen peas
¾ cup frozen corn
Salt and pepper

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup 2 percent low fat milk, warmed
¼ cup low-fat sour cream, room temperature
Salt and pepper

For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth, beer, Worcestershire, and thyme.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened but still saucy, 20 to 25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the peas and corn and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping: Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water and the potatoes to a simmer in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes with the butter, stir in the milk and sour cream until smooth, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Dollop the potatoes over the top of the filling, then smooth them into an even layer, making sure to spread them to the edges of the skillet. Spread the potatoes to the very edge of the skillet to seal the top and prevent the filling from bubbling over the edges.

Bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element, heat the broiler, then broil the casserole until the top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

To make ahead: Prepare the filling and topping, then layer them into a 2-quart broiler-safe baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To bake, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 375-degree oven until hot, about 1 hour, then broil as directed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love chicken tortilla soup. It's hearty, comforting and delicious. This recipe is fantastic and so simple, you'll find yourself making this one at least once a week.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 whole rotisserie chicken (shredded)
1 can (15 oz.) crushed tomatoes (including juices)
1 can (10 oz.) green enchilada or verde sauce
1 medium onion chopped (or about ¼ dried onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn

6 corn tortillas, vegetable oil
Sour cream
Shredded Cheese
Avocado, sliced

Put rotisserie chicken in crock pot. Add rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Remove the bay leaf.

For the garnish: Brush corn tortillas with vegetable oil. Cut into strips. Place on baking sheet in single layer. Bake turning occasionally, until crisp – about 5-10 minutes. Use tortillas to garnish soup with a dollop of sour cream, a handful of shredded cheese and a couple of slices of avocado.

Friday, October 15, 2010

White Chicken Chili

This is the perfect game-friendly, party-food recipe. Easy to make and oh-so-delicious, this will be a huge hit at your next tailgate party.

White Chicken Chili


1 box (32 ounces) chicken stock
3 (14.5 ounce) cans white beans (undrained)
5 cups cooked chicken (rotisserie or boiled)
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
1 block (8 ounces) pepper jack cheese (grated)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Black or white pepper to taste
½ cup finely crushed corn chips (optional for thicker chili)

Place all ingredients except corn chips in a crock pot and cook on high until cheese is well-incorporated. Chili may also be cooked on stove top on medium-high heat until cheese is well-incorporated. When chili is ready, add finely crushed corn chips and let simmer for 10 minutes to thicken. Garnish with more crushed corn chips, cheese or sour cream.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bacon Corn Muffins with Savory Cream Cheese Frosting

Not a fan of sweets? Try this bacon corn muffin for a tasty change of pace. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Bacon Corn Muffins with Savory Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 24 muffins

For Muffins:
8 strips bacon
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat

For Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 bunch chives, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place bacon onto a baking sheet and bake until crisp about 12 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Once bacon is cool enough to handle, chop into small pieces.

Spray a 24-count mini muffin tray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl whisk the milk and egg. Whisk the milk mixture, melted butter and bacon fat into the dry ingredients. Add 3/4 of the chopped cooked bacon, reserve remaining 1/4 for a garnish.

Fill each muffin cup with 1 tablespoon of the batter so the cups are filled about 3/4 of the way up. Bake in oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.

While muffins are cooling, in a medium bowl beat the cream cheese, honey and hot sauce with a hand mixer until soft and combined. Add 3/4 of the sliced chives, reserve remaining 1/4 for a garnish. Mix until well combined.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag and snip off the end.

Once the muffins have cooled, pipe a small amount of the cream cheese mixture on top of each one. Garnish with remaining crumbled bacon and remaining chopped chives.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

I love this time of year, especially when the house smells like a fresh-baked pumpkin. This is a great old Maine recipe – moist and spicy. The bread actually tastes even better the day after it is baked and freezes really well. It’s perfect for holiday gift giving!

Pumpkin Bread
Yields 3 loaves

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
½ cup real butter
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
2/3 cup water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ¾ cups white sugar
½ teaspoons real vanilla
½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans. (I used the 3-pack of foil pans found at the store and put them directly on oven rack - don't put on a cookie sheet).

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes in the preheated oven.

Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Horseradish-Crusted Brisket with Carrots

Sit down with this slow-cooked, fork-tender brisket. You can make this brisket for a holiday meal or anytime you’re craving comfort food.

Horseradish-Crusted Brisket with Carrots
Yields 6-8

For the Brisket:
5 to 6 pounds point-cut beef brisket
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 large Spanish onions, cut into thin wedges
8 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups (1 bottle) full-bodied red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
4 leafy inner stalks celery
2 6-to-8-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 pound carrots, halved crosswise

For the Crust:
1 clove garlic, smashed
Kosher salt
1 6-ounce piece fresh horseradish, peeled
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons dijon mustard

Prepare the brisket: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously season the brisket with salt and pepper, then coat with the flour in a large bowl. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Brown the brisket on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate.

Add the onions and 2 teaspoons salt to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions are caramelized, about 10 more minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook about 5 more minutes. Add the wine and 1 cup water, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the sugar. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer.

Tie the celery, rosemary and bay leaves together with kitchen twine and add to the pot along with the brisket and carrots. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit inside the pot; place directly on top of the liquid, then cover with the lid. Transfer to the oven and cook 3 hours, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crust: Mince and mash the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt. Coarsely grate the horseradish. Chop the parsley with the horseradish and garlic paste until the mixture is moist.

Remove the pot from the oven, discard the parchment and transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Brush the top of the brisket with the mustard, then pat with the horseradish mixture. Return the meat to the pot and bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Discard the celery-herb bundle and skim the fat from the braising liquid; thin the remaining liquid with water, if desired. Slice the meat against the grain. Serve with the carrots, onions and braising liquid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Pumpkins

Want your kids to think you’re the coolest mummy around? Make this tricked-out treat and they’ll be singing your praises – at least until all the ghastly goodies are gobbled up. And, of course, I have the perfect peanut butter treat this Halloween – Peanut Butter Pumpkins!

Peanut Butter Pumpkins
Yields 15

½ cup butter
1 ½ cups peanut butter
1 (16 ounce) package confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring
Green decorators icing

Melt butter in large bowl and add a few drops of yellow and red food coloring, until mixture has a nice orange color.

Add the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar and mix together until a dough-like consistency is reached (This mean that when the dough is nice and stiff and it gets hard to add any more sugar, to let it go at that).

Shape dough into small balls shaped like pumpkins; make ridges on the pumpkins with a toothpick.

Add a small amount of green decorators icing to the top of each pumpkin for a stem.

Refrigerate if desired, to allow pumpkins to firm.

Serve on a plate lines with toasted coconut and Halloween decorated cookies, if desired; these also look good on cupcakes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

This is my version of an upscale grilled cheese or even a caprese salad between bread. No matter what the name is, you will call it yummy. Personally, I think the pesto is the thing that puts this sandwich “over the top.” Pair with homemade tomato soup and you’ve got one delicious meal.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
Yields 2 sandwiches

4 slices thick-cut sourdough bread
1 ball (1 pound) fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼ -inch slices
2 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1 cup fresh basil pesto, recipe follows
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil pesto:
½ cup pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
½ cup Parmesan or Romano
2 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make pesto: Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Combine pesto ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined but still rough-textured.

If you have a panini press, turn it on to warm up; otherwise, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Assemble sandwich by smearing insides of bread slices with pesto. Arrange a layer of sliced tomato and season with a few turns of fresh pepper. Layer the mozzarella slices over the top and then place another piece of bread on top to make the sandwich. Drizzle olive oil over skillet's surface and place sandwiches on the hot skillet or panini press. If using a skillet, place another heavy skillet over the top to form a "press". Turn after 2 to 3 minutes and replace weight. The sandwich is ready when golden brown and mozzarella has melted around the edges.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wicked Cupcakes

Serve up some Halloween fun with this ghoulishly good dessert. These chocolate cupcakes are fun to make and delicious to eat. Get all the ingredients ready and enlist your kids to help decorate. I’m not a baker so I take a little help from Betty Crocker with the cupcakes.

Wicked Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
4-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 drop food coloring (green), optional
Chocolate wafer cookies
Licorice strips
Toasted coconut
Small candies
Special equipment: 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with paper liners

For the cupcakes: Cook the cake box according to the directions.

For the frosting: Beat the butter, peanut butter, and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and milk mixing until the frosting is smooth. Add food coloring as desired. Refrigerate the frosting until firm.

To decorate the cakes: For the witch’s hat, score a circle in the middle of a cupcake. Cut a deep cone-like shape with a knife held at an angle. Rotate the cupcake to complete the circle and remove the center. Repeat with all the cupcakes. Generously scoop or pipe enough frosting into the center of each cupcake to fill the hole and to come over the cake to make a face. Top with a chocolate wafer cookie. Put a dot of frosting in the middle of the wafer cookie and invert the cone shaped piece of cake on top to make a witches hat. Use skinny licorice, toasted coconut or cereal flakes for hair and candies for eyes and/or nose. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spiced Apple Cider Muffins

You’ve heard it time and again: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s also the most neglected. Eating a healthy breakfast helps kids and adults maintain a healthy weight and have lower blood cholesterol. Finding time in your family’s busy schedule will make both you and your kids happier, smarter and healthier. Here’s a breakfast meal you won’t want to skip.

Spiced Apple Cider Muffins
Yields 1 dozen

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup apple butter, such as Smucker's
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.

To prepare streusel: Mix brown sugar, whole-wheat flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts, if using.

To prepare muffins: Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Whisk egg and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in apple butter, syrup, cider, yogurt and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they'll be quite full). Sprinkle with the streusel.

Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shrimp Scampi – Asian Style

As those of you who read my blog frequently know, my kids love shrimp and pasta. I know, right? Go figure! Not mac and cheese but big, juicy shrimp with pasta. So, I combined some “classic” Asian ingredients and came up with this wonderful flavor profile. Serve with angel hair pasta and everyone is happy!

Shrimp Scampi – Asian Style
Serves 4

¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 limes, juiced
2 teaspoons honey
2 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup canola oil, divided
1 ¼ pounds large (21-24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 stick butter

Whisk together ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the lime juice, honey, ginger, garlic and ¼ cup canola oil in a bowl . Heat sauce in skillet. Add butter until melted. Add shrimp and saute until pink. Serve over angel hair pasta.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Pecorino, Prosciutto and Pepper

Fall began on September 22 and this is the perfect dish for the season. Just a few slices of prosciutto add a lot of flavor to this hearty autumn meal. So, settle in with this healthy bowl of pasta.

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Pecorino, Prosciutto and Pepper
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound whole-grain (or whole-wheat) spaghetti
2 tablespoons mixed colored peppercorns, coarsely ground
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups grated (6 ounces) pecorino
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking: Heat a small, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppercorns and toast for about 20 to 30 seconds. Add the oil and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Drain the pasta reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the spaghetti to a large serving bowl. Add 1 cup of the pecorino and toss to combine, gradually adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen up the pasta. Add the oil mixture, prosciutto, 2 tablespoons of parsley. and 2 tablespoons of basil. Toss well to combine all ingredients.

Garnish with the remaining pecorino, parsley, and basil.